Saigon - Warning Shots 2

Posted October 6, 2009
Tags: Saigon,

They say that all geniuses are a little crazy – or often a lot crazy – and if that’s true...

Warning Shots 2 Album Review

They say that all geniuses are a little crazy – or often a lot crazy – and if that’s true than Saigon’s definitely in contention for a genius title. Let’s review. First, the man named himself after a city that was almost completely demolished in a disastrous war. True, his birth name Brian Daniel Carenard isn’t exactly a great rap name either, but you get the point. Second, much like Joe Budden, a rapper Saigon recently not-so-coincidentally battled, he possesses a stubbornness, dedication and devotion to his craft that sometimes borders on manic. Hence his recent Brett Farve-esque “I’m retiring from the rap game…no…wait…I’m unretiring” episode. Third, his music, which we can only assume is an extension of the man’s mind, is at times almost schizophrenic, veering wildly from socially conscious verses (he runs a non-profit for children with incarcerated parents) to odes to sexual violence that make Eazy-E look like Drake. He may be a little crazy, he may just be a complicated man, but one thing’s for sure: when he’s on, he’s one of the best rappers in the game.

You can hear all of these sides of Saigon and more on his new mixalbum Warning Shots 2 (more than a mixtape, not quite an album, it’s a mixalbum). Warning Shots 2 is yet another project designed to hold fans over until Saigon’s legendarily delayed and still unscheduled debut album The Greatest Story Never Told finally sees the light of day (insert your own “never told” joke here). While Saigon continues to insist both that The Greatest Story will someday drop and that it’s a classic album, for now we’ll have to judge his legacy solely on the work he has released, work that includes some 14 projects – yes, there was a Warning Shots 1 – and that legacy is filled with peaks and valleys, just like Warning Shots 2.

If you only listened to the first three songs on Warning Shots you’d think Saigon was a father and a community activist dedicated to making uplifting hip-hop. The mixalbum opens with the piano driven Nothing Comes Easy, an understatement when it comes to Saigon's career. Nothing Comes Easy is a soulful and politically driven track featuring Saigon at his most Nas-esque, dropping rewind worthy lines like “Am I a man or am miracle/some don’t’ understand this is lyrical/all they know is it’s complex and the grammar is difficult.” In the glimpse of Saigon we get on Nothing he’s a misunderstood prophet, a persona that’s further enforced by the next track That’s Not What’s Up. What’s Up expands Saigon’s message of hope and self-determination to the children, exhorting young boys to be more than drug dealers and young women to be more than sexual objects. Thanks in no small part to soul-infused production from Scram Jones and vocals from G Martin Soul, That’s Not What’s Up fittingly ends with some testimony from a young woman thanking Saigon for his positive message.

Saigon’s music always has a message: sometimes that message is “making it rain is degrading to women” and sometimes it’s “I was dippin in that pu**y like some cookies and some milk.” With an almost bipolar finality the last two-thirds of Warning Shots 2 completely abandons its opening message of hope, focusing instead on pu**y (For Some Pu**y), pu**y again (the aforementioned Cookies and Milk) and just for good measure, some more pu**y (For Some Pu**y Remix). Hey, anytime you get a chance to remix For Some Pu**y with OJ Da Juiceman, you gotta do it. Actually, in and of themselves these tracks aren’t so bad, but stylistically and topically they’re complete 180s from the beginning of the album, with Saigon dropping his lyrical complexity in favor of some sadly simple rhyme structure. From the catchy but gimmicky Aye Aye Aye to the head-nodding but basic Be On Time, you have to believe Saigon can do better than Warning Shots 2.

A truly dope MC can rhyme about pu**y with as much skill as he rhymes about the War in Iraq (see Exhibit A, Ludacris) but on Warning Shots 2 we seem to be witnessing Saigon as hip-hop’s Jekyll & Hyde, shifting from the beautiful Fatherhood to unapologetic street bangers like G Optified without blinking. Independently these two sides of Saigon could be great rappers, but if he can’t figure out how to make them coexist – like they do on the mixalbum’s standout Gotta Believe It - they may just destroy each other.

DJBooth Rating - 3 Spins

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Posted October 6, 2009
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